Edward S. Ingraham Biography

EDWARD S. INGRAHAM
Ingraham High School is named after an adventurous gentleman who engaged in many careers but is remembered for being the first superintendent of Seattle Schools.  Born in Maine in 1852, he was educated at a teachers’ college where he claimed that incessant reading injured his eyes, giving him an excuse to go west to visit his brother.  Ten days after arriving on Yesler’s wharf on August 26, 1875, he was hired as a teacher at Central School, which was on 3rd and Madison.  A certain Miss Chatham was the only other teacher in the building.  At the time, there were two other schools in Seattle, each with two teachers:  North School at 3rd and Pine, and South School at 6th and Main.  Both were on the edge of virgin forest.  The Belltown School at 3rd and Vine opened one year later.  Total enrollment was about 150.  Schools were heated by stoves, water was available at a pump, and janitors, electric lights, and telephones were nowhere to be found.  Ingraham mostly taught art and history, requiring his students to recite the United States Constitution verbatim.

A grading system was first introduced by Ingraham in 1876, and the first trappings of high school courses commenced shortly thereafter.  He was named superintendent of Seattle Schools in 1883, a position he had held in everything but name until that time.  He presided over the graduation of Seattle’s first high school class in 1886, which numbered twelve.  When the Central School burned in 1888, Ingraham took the initiative to arrange its students’ accommodation in the other facilities until Central School was replaced.

Ingraham resigned the superintendency shortly thereafter and went into the printing business, a vocation in which he had apprenticed before embarking on his teaching career. He also found time to serve on the state board of education following Washington’s admittance into the union, and was elected to the city council.

He caught gold rush fever in 1898, and he and his party of 16 embarked on the schooner Jane Grey.  The ship foundered 100 miles off Cape Flattery, and 34 of the 61 aboard drowned.  Ingraham’s tenacity revealed itself as he managed to cut a launch loose, reach Vancouver Island with 26 others, and swiftly organize a second party which reached Kotzebue Sound.  While in Alaska, he led a rescue mission 175 miles up the Selawik River in order to save some miners who were dying of scurvy.

After mining and prospecting in Nome, he returned to Seattle with his family in 1901.  He was an avid mountain climber, Ingraham Glacier on Mount Rainier being named for him, and was later instrumental in establishing Seattle’s first Boy Scout chapter.  He continued to teach part time, and passed away in 1926.

A school board report from Ingraham’s tenure as superintendent contains resolutions prohibiting the use of rawhide for corporal punishment and the playing of marbles during school hours.  This seems tame in comparison to the ban on the instruction of the German language during World War I because it was offensive.  Nowadays the school board bans Indian mascots for the same reason.


– Greg Dziekonski, HLCC Historian